Things to do when you're 40...

posted on: Wednesday, 2 July 2014

I am quietly wondering whether life might have played an ironic trick on me?! I turned 40 in March, a preoccupation which heralded new levels of naval gazing on my part. Now, a few months in, things have settled but I am left with an ever-growing feeling of 'what now?' that I am trying to prevent burgeoning into a full blown mid life crisis! That would be oh-so-cliched; to give up ones job, have all the opportunity in the world and then promptly descend into a spiral of self doubt. Hah. The irony is not lost on me.

So I started thinking - what am I actually DOING? We had our children young, we are lucky enough to be financially stable right now (can never take that one for granted from previous experience), we have health, there are all sorts of things we could be doing. And perhaps it is the 'we' that I am missing. My husband works a lot. Many of my friends have moved away or work all hours. I seem to have found myself in a situation where I am alone much of the time. Or with my Mum, whom I love dearly. And there's always the puppy - although he doesn't speak. A distinct disadvantage.

What does one do when one is 40? Embrace everything that one couldn't do at 20?

The benefits? I am starting to know my own mind. I know what hairstyle suits me. I am ruthless about what I wear; I know what I like and I stick to it. That elusive personal style that escaped me at 20 has come home to roost now. I plan to keep dressing how I want to dress until I am 90 and beyond. I know what real love is - I have seen it from many angles. Over twenty years with him. My heart has swollen with love for my children that I didn't think possible.

I am transitioning into having a teenager and on the whole, it's pretty cool. Unlike with small children, you can mould yourself as the mother of a teenager. You can try different stuff; strict/not strict, empathetic/challenging, trust-worthy/trusting. It's a constant source of wonder to me as my daughter grows up. She amazes me. They both do.

I know in my mind's eye there is this a tropical, palm-tree lined place, probably a beach, where I go to when the lonely or mundane gets too much. You see, despite all of this self-enlightenment and thought, my actual life is taken up with the smallness of the everyday. My wise friend met a new Mum the other day who has four children. When asked what she did, she replied 'I drive and think about what food we need'. Deceptively flippant, this is actually pretty close to what I do. That everlasting food preoccupation - always buying it, prepping it, making it, clearing it up. Feeding them. And the driving - don't even get me started! I drive more now than I did when I was 25 holding down a corporate job!

I think I need to walk somewhere - somewhere further than the daily dog walk.
I want to grow my hair long, right down my back.
I want to write a book.
I think I need to camp somewhere warm and see the sunrise.
I should buy a pair of those electric blue Manolos from the 'Sex and the City' film. Oh - wait - Olivia Palermo has further immortalised them on her wedding day!
More importantly - I want to go places appropriately fabulous to wear them!

I read that your forties are an insecure age and I am inclined to agree. It's the most subtle but most persistent change I can recall in my adult life. I suspect it's only celebrities who endorse the view that they are 'more themselves' in their forties than ever before. I attribute this to the armies of stylists and trainers and gurus who concoct new terms like 'conscious uncoupling' to describe marriage break down.

For those of us who have not made our mark on the world stage (my 'stage' is purely local), there is a feeling of shift from one side of the fence to the other. I find myself idly wondering what mark I have left on the world and whether I have fully plundered all of the opportunities that were available to me? Or should I have made my own opportunities as I went along? And frankly, it's hardly as if it's all over. The thing is, when you are not a celebrity, you are just too busy getting through the day and deciding what to have for dinner and wondering if your shoes match your dress.

I just read a book that is more self-help than I care to confess but nevertheless I should share its message as frankly it has been like the adult equivalent of someone showing a child that monsters really don't live under the bed. It's called 'Self Help for your Nerves' (!) and was written many moons ago and has the style of those old fashioned doctors who did home visits with their leather bags (presumably holding a stethoscope and sedatives?). However it made me see the power of thought and how my thoughts can release fears those in turn release adrenalin, that creates more fear and the cycle goes on until the brain is just overwrought. For a thinker like myself it was a light bulb moment. All of my incessant thinking is actually starting a chain reaction which might not always be favourable and most importantly, is within my power to reverse!

Love a self help book as much as I love a Pinterest quote...

Happy Wednesday.